Most of us when confronted with sudden, unwanted changes (and really, isn’t that how nearly all changes show up?), believe that the most important quality we can muster to deal with it is fortitude – our inner strength, also known sometimes as toughness.
That makes sense, doesn’t it? A lot of change is difficult, something to be “gotten through” reluctantly and sometimes painfully. We’re hoping to not only survive the change but come out “okay” on the other side of it
What we don’t realize is that consciously trying to be strong and tough is actually making the experience of change worse instead of better. Why? Because inevitably you will still have upsetting feelings come up, then think you’re “not tough enough,” and beat yourself up for that too!
So, what is the most important thing you can do to have the best possible experience and outcomes when change shows up? Strengthen your self-esteem.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I have provided various tools for building and maintaining self-esteem. I hope you have integrated them into your daily regular practices and found them helpful!
Change Doesn’t Have to Be a Setback
Today I’m adding to that collection of practices with one designed very specifically to support you during times of challenging changes. It consists of 5 steps vital to maintaining your forward momentum through change. By consciously engaging your self-esteem you empower yourself to not just survive change, but to redirect change into something that benefits you.
Make sure you STOP! BREATHE! and FOCUS! to raise your awareness and stimulate your creativity to help you imagine new perspectives. You may find that you resist shifting to new perspectives at first. Don’t give up if this happens. Continue using the steps and looking at the possibilities available to you, and you will realize the power those mindset shifts can give you to step into the life you so richly deserve.
5 Steps for Building Self-Esteem to Handle Change Better
This first step is the foundation, so I want to make sure and set you up to apply it powerfully in your life. Next week in “Part 2” I’ll give you the other 4 steps….
- Practice New Behaviors – If you hear a suggestion that sounds like it would be good for your overall self-esteem, or you see a behavior in someone else that looks like it could provide that for you, begin consciously to practice that behavior.
First practice the desired new behavior privately in front of a mirror, then try it with a good friend, spouse, or mentor, so you get to see and hear how your new “voice” sounds and feels. It’s like trying on new shoes: you may love them right away, but you need to break them in until they feel like your own.
Think of changes you’ve been through, either recently or long ago, that have been particularly challenging. Identify how this particular behavior would have been helpful in responding better to that change.
For example, an upsetting change in someone’s life could be getting laid off from a steady job. This is usually a big self-esteem killer, which may lead to feelings of fear, being “not good enough” and even hopelessness. Then let’s say a person who has lost their job had identified as their desired new behavior that they want to become good at is “being more patient and engaged with my aging parents.”
Those two things may appear at first to be unrelated, but if you look closely you can discover at least one very important link between the two: your love for your parents and your determination to take ensure that they receive excellent care to maximize their health and well-being.As adult children, a big part of why a good job matters to us so much is that it reinforces approval from our parents…and somehow no matter how old we get, we still like and often seek out our parents’ approval, respect and acceptance.
So when our parents are demanding, critical and not very appreciative of everything we do – and the lives we have apart from caring for them – it’s upsetting, frustrating and annoying to us. What we don’t realize is that magnifying our upset and anger toward our parents when they make that one more comment, “the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” that makes us erupt in an angry response, is all the anxiety, stress and tension we are feeling about getting another job.
When you begin to make that mental connection in the split second before you react and yell at your parents, you have a chance to remember that they are simply being themselves. Their lives are not necessarily going the way they’d like them to either! Blowing your stack and yelling at them doesn’t accomplish much in the way of positive outcomes, and tends to lead both to guilt and added disappointment in how you view your abilities, and damage to your self-esteem.
With your new awareness and behavioral goal, you can instead more compassionately say, “I hear how you feel, and understand what you want, and we’ll figure out a way to take care of what you’re asking.”…and we BREATHE!
Without realizing it, you have also then shifted your relationship to the job layoff: yes, it may be unpleasant and scary, but it is no longer something that dictates how you react to stressful situations. You are back in charge of your power to think about who and how you want to be.
The same mechanism that gives you that “second of grace” to choose how to treat your parents (and others) will also allow you to look at your employment situation as a separate challenge to be figured out, dealt with and solved. That is far easier to do without the added guilt of having “failed” in your desire to behave only in ways that create a great relationship with your parents.
This is just one example out of hundreds you might come up with for yourself. But I hope it encourages you to look for those obscure linkages between seemingly unrelated experiences in your life – it’s the best possible way to build self-esteem and resilience!
When you practice this and all new behaviors in the mirror and with friends and family, you’ll have a chance to hone in on the exact words that come from your heart and accurately convey just what you mean, while supporting your good feelings about yourself.
Each time you complete this “pre-implementation” practice you’re that much closer to having it become a permanent, automatic, effective and self-esteem-building behavior. So congratulate yourself each time for making real, measurable progress!